My First Professional Soccer Game

26 07 2009

Today, I went to my first professional soccer game. The Cusco team played against the Lima team, and unfortunately, we lost 0-2. Apparently, the team here is not very good. Nonetheless, I had so much fun.

Cusco Team Attempting a Goal

Cusco Team Attempting a Goal

A bunch of us bought jerseys and wore them throughout the game. I´m actually still wearing mine as I write. There were food and drink vendors everywhere, and of course lots of cheering and swearing from the crowd. A former TEFL student (now an English teacher here) and I decided to eat beef and potatoes on a stick. I had been dying to try it for some time now. Very tasty.

Beef and Potato On a Stick

Beef and Potato On a Stick

Beef and Potato On a Stick

Beef and Potato On a Stick

During the game, it started raining a little bit. The weather here has been pretty strange the past few days– cloudy and rainy. It´s dry season right now, so Cusco doesn´t usually get this type of weather this time of year.

While walking home from the game, I happened to walk right into the middle of a parade about a block from my house. There are street parades all the time here. And, Peru is celebrating Independence Day on Tuesday and Wednesday, so I´m sure there will be lots more street parades this week.

Street Parade While Walking Home

Street Parade While Walking Home

On Wednesday, I start my TEFL/TESOL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language/Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) class. Basically, I´ll be a full-time student for the next four weeks. No more working with children right now. From what I´ve heard and seen, the class is very intense, but also rewarding and fun. I´ll have to make lesson plans, write papers, read and teach English lessons to students at Maximo Nivel. Super excited for the challenge and what lies ahead! When the class ends, Maximo holds a party with free food and alcohol for all the TEFL students, the staff and volunteers. I´ve now been to three parties.

TEFL/TESOL Party with Valerie, Recent TEFL/TESOL Grad and Soon-to-Be Teacher at Maximo

TEFL/TESOL Party with Valerie, Recent TEFL/TESOL Grad and Soon-to-Be Teacher at Maximo





Lake Titicaca

15 07 2009
 

 

 

Before

 

 

 

 

I´m headed by myself to Lake Titicaca tomorrow by plane. I´m flying to the town of Juliaca, Peru, where I´ll take a bus to Copacabana, Bolivia and renew my visa. I´m spending some time on the Bolivian side of the lake. Then, I´ll head over to the Peruvian side too. It´s supposed to be very cold and very beautiful. I rented a sleeping bag in case I go camping.

It amazes me how some volunteers don´t even know about Lake Titicaca. Some people came here with so much naiveté that it sometimes frustrates me.

More to come after I get back on Tuesday!

After

Wow. So much has happened within the past five days that it´s hard to even know where to start. I´ll describe my adventure chronologically.

Day 1 – Bad Luck Transportation Fairy

I woke up bright and early with tons of excitement to go to the Cusco airport. When I got there, I waited a bit and then was told that my plane was circling in the air waiting for the clouds to clear. Turns out, the plane could not land because of the cloud cover. Instead, it headed to Lima, which was its final destination. Long story short, my flight was cancelled and I had to come back several hours later to take another flight.

Thinking that the bad luck transportation fairy had finished its visit, I was wrong. My flight went smoothly, and I took a bus to Puno, Peru (The city on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca). I thought I would just be able to catch another bus to Copacabana, but as I am learning, nothing is ever as easy as it seems down here. The bus driver told me I couldn´t take a bus to Copacabana because the immigration office would have been closed by the time I arrived. Before I had time to even think about what to do next, he and his assistant were already unloading my backpack into a nearby hostel.

Frustrated, I called the hotel in Copacabana to cancel my reservation for the night. I didn´t want to be in Puno for the night; it wasn´t part of my plan. Clearly, plans can change very quickly here.

To clear my head and cheer myself up, I decided to go eat at a restaurant recommended by my Lonely Planet guidebook. I had the most delicious meal in all of my trip here. If this meal was a person, I´d be in love. First, I ordered hot chocolate. Then came the main dish: Alpaca steak with vegetables in a cream sauce and warm apple sauce on the side. It was so good, and I felt much better after eating such a satisfying meal.

What I realized this first day was that things happen for a reason and not to get so upset if something doesn´t go as planned. I´m here to learn and to experience new cultures and ways of life. With more patience and flexibility, I´ll be happier.

Day 2 – Arriving in Copacabana

The next morning, I took a bus headed to Copacabana. For the most part, there were few complications. Of course being American, I had to pay a large fee to enter Bolivia. And since I didn´t have a copy of my immunization records, I had to pay an extra ten dollars. Keep in mind, people who are not American did not have to pay a large fee or show any type of health records.

The hotel I stayed at was nice compared to the first night. They offered free tea and fruit at any time of the day. The room was comfy and most importantly had a warm shower. There, I booked a ticket to go to Isla del Sol (the main island on the Bolivian side of the lake) for the morning after.

Once I got settled, I went out to explore Copacabana. Of all the cities and towns I´ve been to so far, Copacabana is my favorite. It´s a relaxing, tranquil, lakefront town with beautiful views. When I visited the church (also very beautiful), there were a bunch of poor people sitting in front begging for whatever people would give them. Feeling sorry for them, I gave away all my snack food.  The look on these kids´faces when I gave them a half-filled bag of peanuts was priceless.

Church in Copacabana

Church in Copacabana

Copacabana

Copacabana

Street Vendor in Copacabana

Street Vendor in Copacabana

Later on, I climbed a nearby mountain to watch the sunset. Let me tell you, when I´m in a city that has an elevation of over 12,000 feet, and I have asthma, trekking up a mountain is very difficult. Winded and exhausted, I finally made it. The extraordinary sunset was worth every breathe I took to get up there.

The Mountain I Climbed

The Mountain I Climbed

Sunset

Sunset

Sunset

Sunset

Then, I had a relaxing dinner at a coffee shop where I was serenaded by a wonderful live band with two guitar players, a flute player and a drummer.

Day 3 – Sick and Trekking Isla Del Sol

There is nothing worse than pain. Whether it be physical, emotional, psychological or in some other form, pain is one of the hardest things to endure.

I had been experiencing minor abdominal pain on Day 2, but I didn´t think much about it and tried to ignore it. Well, around 3:30 in the morning on Day 3, this pain was there to stay. The ¨parasitic¨pain that I had endured several weeks ago had come back. Once again, waves of abdomincal pain struck– it felt like someone was squeezing my intestines. Pepto didn´t help either.

The pain continued well into the morning. Then the mental debate started. Should I go to Isla del Sol, or not? What if the pain gets worse and I´m stuck on this island? Suck it up and go, Alexa. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Fatigued, exhausted and still experiencing terrible cramping, I ended the battle of thoughts when I decided I would go. I wasn´t sure if I´d ever see this part of the world again.

The boat ride to the island lasted over an hour and a half. I appropriately and undeliberately sat next to the neon green life jackets in the back. At least I knew I´d be safe if the boat started sinking. Of the 80+ people on the boat, I might have been the only one alone. I looked around and saw all these affectionate young couples and talkative friends. And here I was. Sick, by myself, no one to comfort me.

The boat dropped us off at one end of the island and left. We were supposed to walk to the other end of the island, which takes three to five hours depending on how fast you go. While some people took a tour, I ventured off to walk as quickly as I could to finish. Surrounded by ruins, rocky terrain and breathtaking views, all I could think about was lying down on a bed with a soft pillow.

While taking a break at one point during the beginning, a woman asked me if I was okay. I must have looked pretty bad. I told her I was having stomach problems, and she insisted that it was altitude related because she, too, was having problems. I found it a bit absurd that she thought she could diagnose my problem without even knowing what I was going through.

Lonely Planet describes the hike as ¨moderately strenuous.¨However, when in pain and feeling the effects of asthma and altitude, it´s much harder than that.

The hike had several checkpoints, where we had to pay small fees to keep going. At one particular checkpoint, the money collector said to me, ¨Hola Señor.¨Wait a second. Señor? Really? Do I really look that bad? I guess my hat, lack of makeup and hiking clothes made me look manly. And my flat chest didn´t help. Ouch. Way to add insult to injury.

Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca

Finally, I finished after almost four hours. I checked myself into a hotel with electricity and a nice view of the lake. Before I could fully relax, they had to clean the bathroom and mop the floors. I waited on the bed while the very friendly cleaning lady cleaned. Her name was Primativa. She was a 20 year-old native who spoke the indigenous dialect, and she wanted to talk. The last thing I wanted to do was carry on a conversation. If I had been feeling well, I would have welcomed the opportunity to practice Spanish, but all I wanted to do was rest. She was so interested in me that when she was done cleaning, she sat down on the bed next to me and just looked at me for a couple minutes. Then, she said goodbye and left after an awkward silence.
I rested all afternoon and evening, not even getting up to eat dinner. I then fell asleep and woke the next morning to no pain. Yay!
Day 4 – Shopping, Relaxing, La Cúpula
 
After a night on the island, I took a boat back to Copacabana. I got a room at the place I had originally booked, La Cúpula. It´s wonderful. It runs on solar power, which means I had my best shower so far in South America. The bed was also very comfy, and there were lots of hammocks outside. They even had a hot tub.
Following my hot shower, I went to get some pizza and coffee. The pizza was so big that I gave my un-eaten slices to the sorriest-looking people I could find. One of them had very few teeth.  
Restaurant in Copacabana

Restaurant in Copacabana

Full and content, I went shopping for jewelry and Bolivian music. I bought four pairs of cheap, hand-made earrings and a traditional music CD. I have yet to hear the entire CD, but I´m hoping it has flutes and guitars like the music I heard in the coffee shop.

As I was strolling on the lakefront, I passed by about 20 stalls all selling cooked trout. They looked delicious. I also watched a group of native kids and adults playing soccer on the pavement. They looked so happy, and I was smiling as I was watching them. When the ball came towards me, I kicked it back. Then, one of the women asked if I wanted to play with them. It made my day.

Trout Stands

Trout Stands

Later, I ate dinner with a Swiss woman I met at the hotel. She was so interesting and so smart. All the Swiss people I meet are always so cultured and know so many different languages. She told me that she had lived in Panama for a year through the foreign exchange program AFS. Small world because that´s the organization my family is affiliated with.

Then, I retired to my room to read and translate a Cosmopolitan magazine article in Spanish. Oh, and of course I had diarrhea later on that night too. Lovely.

Day 5 – Back to Puno, and Juliaca too?

The next morning, I took a bus back to Puno. I had intended on staying in Puno and taking another bus to the airport the next morning. Once I got to Puno, I found a hostel and set out to sight see. First, I decided to go to this landmark about thirty minutes outside of the city. I hopped on a bus, and sitting next to me was a nice Peruvian English professor. She told me to definitely stay in the city of Juliaca that night (Juliaca is the city with the airport) because there was going to be a transportation strike the next day. She wrote down a couple of trustworthy hotels for me, and gave me some advice about the city of Juliaca.

Then, the weather got really bad, and I didn´t feel safe exploring the landmark alone in the middle of nowhere where it was cold, cloudy and windy. While taking the bus back to Puno, I saw lightning. Thus, I could no longer explore the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. Long story short, I took a taxi to one of the hotels in Juliaca that the English professor had recommended.

The Ominous Clouds

The Ominous Clouds

The hotel was nice and a bit more than I would have wanted to pay, but it was safe, so that´s all that really matters. As dinner time approached, I looked out my window and saw tons of people in the Chinese restaurant across the street. So, I went over there and had a huge, delicious meal for less than two dollars. The place was run by Chinese people. No wonder it was so good. The last Chinese food I had in Peru was mediocre, but this was fantastic.

Day 6 – Transportation Strike and Back to Cusco

The bad luck transportation fairy decided to pay me another visit today on my last day of the trip. Indeed, it was a good idea to stay in Juliaca the night before my flight because there were very few vehicles in the street. To get to the airport, I had to take a motorized rickshaw. Since strikers had blocked the main road, the driver took an alternate, rocky, unpaved route. I thought we might topple over at any minute, but we made it safely.

Motorized Rickshaw

Motorized Rickshaw

To my surprise, the flight was not delayed or cancelled! The scenery from the plane was awesome, as we flew over a cascade of mountains.

View From the Plane

View From the Plane

Once we landed, I didn´t think I´d have any problems getting back home. Wrong! I got in a taxi, but we couldn´t go very far. The protestors from the strike had blocked all the routes coming from the airport. Lucky me! My only other option was to walk. I walked for quite some time with my luggage until I passed the road blocks. And finally, I got a taxi.

My New Room

When I got home, the friendly staff greeted me and took me to my new room. I had been stuck living in a triple again for several weeks and had been asking to switch rooms for a while. Now I have the best room in the house! It´s a single with a big bed and an attached private bathroom. The staff had moved and re-organized all my stuff in my new room. Not a bad welcome if you ask me!





Doing the Hokey Pokey

11 07 2009

On Thursday night, I had a couple too many drinks while out celebrating household birthdays. Nonetheless, I still had a great time. Funny side note: I met a fellow volunteer named Eliza, and she has a sister named Alexis.

My hangover was a bit rough on Friday morning, and I arrived at my project about half an hour late. I´m so glad I decided to go because it was a special day for the kids. Several doctors came to talk to the kids about sexual, physical and psychological abuse. Most of these kids are abused by their fathers, so I´m very pleased that people came to talk to them.

On top of this, the doctors looked at each kid and gave them toothbrushes and taught them how to brush their teeth. It was incredibly adorable.

And, to put some icing on the cake, I brought in my five-dollar speakers and children´s songs. We listened to Old MacDonald Had a Farm, The Wheels on the Bus, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, If You´re Happy and You Know It, and of course the Hokey Pokey, which we´re slowly teaching.

They absolutely loved the music, and they were so intrigued by my speakers. I´m not sure if they had ever seen speakers before. They were touching them and were so curious about how the speakers were transmitting the music. On Monday, I´m bringing in Michael Jackson music upon request.

Kids and Doctors

Kids and Doctors

Teaching the Kids About Hygiene

Teaching the Kids About Hygiene

The Niñas Brushing

The Niñas Brushing

Some of the Niños

Some of the Niños

Kevin

Kevin

Reynaldo

Reynaldo

Animal Crossings Are Very Typical

Animal Crossings Are Very Typical

After my hungover Friday morning fun, I took the bus back to Cusco and sat next to a very old Quechuan woman. I wanted to take a picture, but I didn´t think it would be very appropriate. I find the older Quechuan women very fascinating because in addition to looking really old and fragile, they carry so much on their backs.

I´m about to go explore some of the famous churches here. Then, I´m going to work on some fundraising letters for my project. If anyone would like to check out the project´s website, it´s here: http://www.asociacionwara.org/. The website is a work in progress and is by no means complete at all. At some point, I´m going to ask friends and family for donations. Even a small amount of money can go a long way.





Feeling Better, Thanks to Jesus?

7 07 2009

I´m feeling much better. So much better. In fact, I feel better than I´ve ever felt here. I saw the doctor again today because he wanted to see how I was doing. He gave me some free medicine to take so that the good bacteria that had been killed off when I was taking antibiotics will grow back faster.

This past weekend, a bunch of us had a barbeque at the other volunteer house. The staff let us cook hamburgers and hot dogs for the fourth of July, which was nice. I also went to a huge market about an hour away in the town of Pisaq. I bought some warm Alpaca slippers, some earrings and some playing cards. The market also had a food section. I loved looking at all the different colored spices  (see below).

Pisaq Market  (Woman with Spices)

Pisaq Market (Woman with Spices)

One thing that I´ve noticed the entire time  I´ve been here that I completely forgot to write about is that every single taxi driver has some sort of a Jesus figure on their windshield. The bus that I took to my project earlier today had five Jesus figures suctioned to the window. Whatever it takes to not cause an accident… Some of them are not the best drivers.

Jesus Figures On The Bus

Jesus Figures On The Bus

The kids continue to put a smile on my face. They are so young and yet, all the boys know this really cool dance. They also know how to make ovens out of adobe rocks. I knew the adults know how to make the ovens, but I had no idea that the kids can do it too! They proceeded to make an oven yesterday and cook potatoes in it. I couldn´t believe it.

Dancing Boys

Dancing Boys

Kids Making the Oven

Kids Making the Oven

I´m planning a trip to Bolivia some time within the next couple of weeks before my TEFL class starts. I need to renew my visa by crossing the border. Hoping I won´t experience another bus ride from hell when I go…





Parasites: Round Two

2 07 2009

After a fantastic weekend of relaxing, partying and taking a day trip to try Peruvian duck with some of my amigos, I fell ill again on Sunday night. It was only a fever at first– I couldn´t get warm, and I was fatigued. I put on layers and socks and felt pretty miserable. Okay, no problem. Nothing Tylenol can´t cure (P.S. Many pharmacies here don´t carry acetamenophen).

Thanks to acetamenophen, my fever was on and off throughout Monday and went away by Tuesday morning. But by then, something else had crept up on me: diarrhea. That´s when I called the doctor… again. Never have I ever had it that bad in my life. I´ll spare the details.

The doctor presumed it was yet again another parasite. He told me to go get this particular medicine from the pharmacy. So, I fetched the medicine, came back home, took the medicine and drum roll please… threw up the medicine! So, I called the doctor again. He came back to give me a shot to help with my naseau. A few weeks ago, he unsuccessfully tried to give me a shot in my tiny arm vein. This time, he wanted to try again. FAIL. Onto to plan B: my ass. Yep, the cute Peruvian doctor has now given me two shots in my ass. I´m really hoping there´s not going to be a third time– he´s not that cute…

Then, he told me that if I continued to have problems and couldn´t hydrate myself, I´d have to go to the clinic where they´d hook me up to an IV. I continued to have issues the rest of the day and yesterday (The anti-diarrhea medicine he prescribed me was doing nothing.) until a nice volunteer in the house gave me her entire pack of immodium. I had lost my immodium and was so thankful. WHAT A SAVIOR!

Since then, I haven´t had any ¨episodes,¨ just some abdominal discomfort. It´s likely that I got the unknown parasite from one of the children with whom I work. Several of them have parasites, and they are constantly climbing, coughing, sneezing, wiping their noses, etc… on me.

My love/hate relationship with Peru lives on. Hopefully I´ll enjoy this weekend and celebrate the 4th of July somehow. Stay tuned for my next post!